Johnson City's Fountain Square
1904 - 1938

A Pictorial Album


The primary author of the following material is Bob L. Cox, history writer for the Johnson City Press. Bob has researched extensively the unusual story of the Lady of the Fountain and the saga of its glory days as the centerpiece and icon of old Downtown, to its near-miss in being destroyed, and finally its return to Johnson City. and restoration at Fountain Square.


Click on each photo to see a larger view.

The Lady
Date: 1992

Under protective custody of the City of Johnson City, the historic Lady of the Fountain statue is faring well at age 100 and in April 2011, a bronze replica of the original statue was placed at "Fountain Square."

It is believed that this statue became a part of the city about 1904, soon after “Mountain Home,” (present James H. Quillen VA Medical Center and College of Medicine campus) was built. One conjecture suggests that then Mayor James Summers and other city officials sought a way to honor Congressman Walter Preston Brownlow of Tennessee's First District, U.S. House of Representatives (1896-1910). The popular congressman was responsible for Johnson City being selected as the site for the “Mountain Branch of the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Veterans,” from an Act of Congress dated January 28, 1901. Brownlow had sympathized with the plight of thousands of older Union Civil War veterans, maimed during the four-year conflict and shamefully reduced to mere homeless beggars. The city fathers reportedly chose to honor Brownlow with a statue to be placed in the heart of their town. After fabrication of the stature in a New York City foundry (Mott Iron Works) and delivery to the city, she reigned in the downtown district over the next approximately thirty-three years, observing the city’s colorful history unfold before her very eyes and ears. The fountain on which the statue stood was fabricated in Lenoir City, Tennessee. Read Bob Cox's article on the notification by Carol Grissom of the Smithsonian Institution of the Lady's true identity as the "Greek Water Carrier."

Below Johnson City artist Ted Laws provides a 1920s look at Fountain Square, as Ted remembered it as a youth in the city's railroad glory years.


Ted Laws Painting
Date: 1988

Color Postcard
Date: 1908
Sandra Street Collection



Photo Spot at the Fountain
Dates: 1911, 2011

The Lady, an imposing seven-foot zinc statue, originally stood barefooted on a pedestal in the center of a three-foot tall circular concrete multi-spigot water fountain, facing southeast toward the Unaka National Bank building on Main Street. Through the years, many a weary railway traveler has navigated through the city’s central business district, pausing just long enough to imbibe from the cool refreshing fountain. Several small pans situated around the base collected runoff water, further supplying water for horses and small animals. Shown below is a close-up view of the fountain apparatus.


Base of Statue
Date: 1911

Date: 1912




View Looking West
Date: 1909

In this view, note the sidewalk approaches to the fountain and the visual prominence the statue had in the center of the triangular park. A Southern Railway passenger train is passing through the city and has stopped local traffic consisting of several horse drawn carriages and the local trolley traveling east on Main Street.

The map below details the triangular park with the central fountain. Fountain Square was known to play host to a large number of musical events - many just old-time music jam sessions led by Columbia Records recording artist Fiddlin' Charlie Bowman - and others featuring performers playing on street corners for tips including blues legend Blind Lemon Jefferson. This era of local history is commemorated today by the Blue Plum Art & Music Festival held at the same historic location each summer the first weekend in June. The small insert photo above shows a circus parade through Fountain Square.


Map of Square
Date: 1920

The Welcome Waters
Date: 1910


Tips are Appreciated
Date: 1920s



View Looking South
Date: 1910
In this view a Southern Railroad train approaches Fountain Square likely having just left the Southern's joint "union station" shared with the ET&WNC Railroad (former location of Free Service Tire Store). Johnson City's three passenger depots were in easy walking distance of Fountain Square and untold thousands of travelers were familiar with this local landmark.


Waiting for a Drink
Date: 1913

Above, two gentlemen drink from the fountain in the background with a loyal steed "parked" in the foreground patiently awaiting its owner's return. Below a bustling crowd of gentlemen has gathered along Main Street on a Saturday around 1900.


Saturday Morning on Main
Date: 1902

News from
The Comet
Date: 1904


View toward
Main Street
Date: 1905
Unaka National Bank Ad
Nice view above looking toward Main Street. The Unaka National Bank is located on the left with Gump's Department Store (site of the famous Jobe's Opera House) located across the street. Below the Lady watches one of the thousands of local trolley runs she observed traveling up Main Street both in a photo and a vintage postcard. In April 1919, thousands of people attended a massive party/celebration for returning soldiers from World War I, with Fountain Square and Main Street decorated as never before.

Watching the
Date: 1908

Date: 1905
Date: 1919
Unaka National Bank

WWI Soldiers
Pose with
the Lady

Date: 1919



Tunnel's Studio
Date: 1908

Above the Hart and Houston Annex is located next to Tunnel's Photography Studio. A debt of gratitude is owed to Mr. Tunnel who photographed most of these classic street scenes. This tradition is upheld today by Mel's Stamps and Coins which offers vintage postcard reprints from the same Fountain Square location.

In the rare postcard below, a local police officer is photographed at the fountain. Estes' Bargain House is seen in this vintage photo with the Hart and Houston Annex having expanded down the street to larger quarters in the same block. Hart and Houston were merged with the H.P. King Company, known for a time as the H.P. King - Hart Company.


Police Patrol
Date: 1910

Hart & Houston Annex
Date: 1904



On Display at City Hall

Date: 2006
Full Size View

Note Broken Sleeve on Right Side awaiting repair

On Display at City Hall

Date: 2006

For more reading on the Lady of the Fountain, its history and miraculous story of survival, author and historian Bob L. Cox has written several research articles for the Johnson City Press:

Lady of the Fountain: The Statue Has Had a Long and Troublesome Past

Lady of the Fountain: A Previous Owner Sheds Some History

Lady with a History: Smithsonian Consultant Enlightens
Johnson Citians on Old Statue



Rebecca Hilbert & Bob Cox
Date: 2006
Above, Johnson City Community Relations Director Rebecca Hilbert and author Bob Cox pose with Johnson City's Lady at City Hall. Rebecca has served as guardian for the statue and aided in its preservation in recent years. During 2007, the Lady of the Fountain was displayed at Hands On! Museum as part of the Johnson's Journey Exhibit.



Ted Laws Painting
Date: 1983